Wednesday, 16 November 2016 06:22

Microsoft and Code.org announce free Minecraft Hour of Code tutorial

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Just in time for Computer Science Education Week in the US, from 5 to 11 December, both Microsoft and Code.org "believe the new offering will again introduce tens of millions to coding for the first time".

With 30 million trials of last year's Hour of Code tutorial, Microsoft and Code.org are ready introduce tens of millions of children to coding for the first time, with Microsoft Stores to also host coding workshops worldwide during Computer Science Education Week.

This includes the Microsoft Store in Australia. You can sign up here.

Microsoft and Code.org have unveiled the ‘Minecraft Hour of Code Designer,’ a coding tutorial for students and educators created for Hour of Code, an annual, global campaign held during Computer Science Education Week.

The new Web-based tutorial — available free here — "enables beginner coders to create and share their own simple 'Minecraft' game, and is designed to empower anyone to begin learning the problem-solving and critical thinking skills required in today's tech-fuelled world".

Created by Minecraft game designers at Mojang and Microsoft, in partnership with Code.org, we are told that "the fun and easy-to-learn one-hour experience builds on the success of last year's record-breaking 'Minecraft' tutorial, which reached more than 30 million students worldwide".

With the goal of inspiring millions more to try coding for the first time — and to keep going on their journey of learning computer science — the tutorial is now available in 10 languages, including Spanish.

It is scheduled to be available in 50 languages by 5 December.

With the immense popularity of "Minecraft" around the world, Microsoft and Code.org say they believe "the tutorial has the potential to reach people of all ages and likeness".

We’re told that "women and girls already compose nearly half of the game's global fan base", and that "the tutorial also underscores Microsoft's commitment to ensuring all young people have the opportunity to learn computer science, an economic and social imperative in this era of digital transformation, which is expected to generate 1.4 million computing jobs in the U.S. alone by 2020 according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics".

In the US, Microsoft says "40% of schools do not teach computer science", and that the company "aims to reach students most likely to be among those without access, particularly girls and minorities".

Satya Nadella, chief executive of Microsoft, said: “We are partnering with Code.org again this year to make computer science more accessible to millions of youth around the world with 'Minecraft' and Hour of Code.

"I am inspired by the 'Minecraft' generation who view themselves not as players of a game, but as creators of the new worlds they dream up. This is the generation that will imagine, build and create our future, and together we can equip them with the computational thinking and problem-solving skills to seize the opportunities ahead."

Designed for ages six and up, the Minecraft Hour of Code Designer teaches students to create their own 'Minecraft' experience where they can program the rules.

They can make chickens that drop gold, or zombies that run away instead of attacking. Along the way, students use Code.org's familiar drag-and-drop coding interface to learn computer science concepts such as object-oriented programming, event handlers and repeat loops. Players face a series of 12 challenges, culminating in creating their own simple game, which they can share with friends.

Mike Harvey, a technology teacher from Falmouth, Maine, said: “The 2016 Minecraft Hour of Code tutorial builds on the success of the original in a great way.

"By programming familiar game events themselves, learners will be able to experience computer science in a way that is authentic as well as fun. The open-ended challenges help to show that our favorite games (like 'Minecraft') are ultimately created with code."

Hadi Partovi, the co-founder and chief executive of Code.org, said: “Code.org was founded with the vision that every student in every school should have the opportunity to learn computer science – not only because it's foundational for any career, but because students love it.

"Minecraft is a special game that appeals to a diverse global community. We're delighted to have the chance to teach students coding with the fun familiarity of 'Minecraft,' to engage students of all backgrounds and skill levels."

In support of Code.org and the global Hour of Code campaign, Microsoft says it will "also lead thousands of youth coding events in more than 60 countries. During Computer Science Education Week, this includes hundreds of free workshops hosted by Microsoft Stores across the globe".

Students can reserve a spot in a store workshop by visiting Microsoft’s Youth Spark Programs page and also by visiting their local Microsoft Store to learn more.

In addition to the latest tutorial and coding events, Microsoft has also been receiving rave reviews from educators on the newly launched "Minecraft: Education Edition" title, a fully featured title that brings the magic of "Minecraft" to the classroom for more immersive, long-term lesson plans.

Microsoft Minecraft hour of code

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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

One of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.

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